The contagious nature of the COVID-19 due to its easy spread and sustainably in the community has compelled a number of countries to go in partial or complete lock down, halting the social life and affecting the global economy. While nations continue to work professionally from home, the dental community faces a similar situation.
By Dr Sumaiya Hassan
Efforts by Global Dental Associations: Owing to OVID-19 pandemic, the dental associations of various countries have devised certain rules and guidelines for the dental community. The Australian Dental Association, for example, has imposed level 3 restrictions which include postponing the elective dental procedures, providing emergency dental care to patients through procedures which do not generate aerosol, and performing emergency dental procedures of COVID-19 patients as per certain guidelines by the association. The American Dental Association has also provided similar guidelines to perform only emergency dental procedures.
Dental Clinics and OPDs – The Unsafe Zones: In Pakistan, most of the OPDs associated with the teaching institutes have been shut down in an effort to contain the virus. On the other hands, few private practices are still running where the dentists are only performing emergency dental procedures. The cross infection control protocols followed in these clinics is also a matter of concern.
While shutting down the dental clinics and OPDs is having significant impact on the employees and owners of aforementioned areas in terms of finances, it is considered as “playing safe” because the dental clinics and OPDs are the prime zones of the transmission of COVID-19 due to the following facts.
1. Dental procedures often cause production of aerosol.
2. The waiting areas of dental OPDs and clinics can act as zones where individuals come in close contact and the disease might transmit from the sick individuals to the healthy ones. A similar situation can arise while the individuals travel from their homes to the clinics or OPDs. An important point to be mentioned is that COVID-19 may spread through the airborne route, meaning that tiny droplets remaining in the air could cause disease in others even after the ill person is no longer near. Also, Individuals infected with COVID-19 may be shedding virus and communicating the disease even before they show symptoms, including transmission through saliva.
3. The novel coronavirus survives on surfaces for various periods of time, including metal and plastic surfaces, as found in the dental office. Even in a well-controlled setting with strict cross infection control protocols, a slight breach in the protocols may expose a number of individuals to the disease.
How can the Dental Community Work from Home to Serve Patients and Themselves?
The postponed dental appointments might concern patients and may become a source of anxiety for them. Being laymen, patients might not understand the reason for postponed appointments. Here is what the dental community can do from their home.
1. Notify patients about the reason for halting elective dental procedures. Patients can be contacted via detailed emails, SMS or WhatsApp messages. Templates can be found on the website of various global dental associations.
2. Pursuing the option of tele-dentistry for prescriptions.
3. Developing or assessing the marketing plan for your practice.
4. Compose training and awareness manuals.
5. Analysing the failing aspects of your practice.
6. Conducting/attending webinars for professional development.
7. Assessing protocols for referral (to specialists) and emergency dental treatment of patients with COVID-19.